Thermal Physiology, Disease, and Amphibian Declines on the Eastern Slopes of the Andes

Edgar Lehr, Vance T Vredenburg, Alessandro Catenazzi

Research output: Journal ArticleArticlepeer-review


<div class="line" id="line-7"> <span style='font-family: "Times New Roman","serif"; font-size: 10pt;'> Rising temperatures, a widespread consequence of climate change, have been implicated in enigmatic amphibian declines from habitats with little apparent human impact. The pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), now widespread in Neotropical mountains, may act in synergy with climate change causing collapse in thermally stressed hosts. We measured the thermal tolerance of frogs along a wide elevational gradient in the Tropical Andes, where frog populations have collapsed. We used the difference between critical thermal maximum and the temperature a frog experiences in nature as a measure of tolerance to high temperatures. Temperature tolerance increased as elevation increased, suggesting that frogs at higher elevations may be less sensitive to rising temperatures. We tested the alternative pathogen optimal growth hypothesis that prevalence of the pathogen should decrease as temperatures fall outside the optimal range of pathogen growth. Our infection </span> <span style='font-family: "Cambria Math","serif"; font-size: 10pt;'> &hyphen; </span> <span style='font-family: "Times New Roman","serif"; font-size: 10pt;'> prevalence data supported the pathogen optimal growth hypothesis because we found that prevalence of Bd increased when host temperatures matched its optimal growth range. These findings suggest that rising temperatures may not be the driver of amphibian declines in the eastern slopes of the Andes. Zoonotic outbreaks of Bd are the most parsimonious hypothesis to explain the collapse of montane amphibian faunas; but our results also reveal that lowland tropical amphibians, despite being shielded from Bd by higher temperatures, are vulnerable to climate </span> <span style='font-family: "Cambria Math","serif"; font-size: 10pt;'> &hyphen; </span> <span style='font-family: "Times New Roman","serif"; font-size: 10pt;'> warming stress. </span></div>
Original languageAmerican English
JournalConservation Biology
StatePublished - 2013


  • critical thermal maximum
  • elevational gradient
  • extinction
  • frogs
  • montane forest
  • physiological ecology
  • threatened species
  • tropical Andes
  • bosque de montaña
  • ecología fisiológica
  • especies amenazadas
  • extinción
  • gradiente de elevación
  • máximo termal crítico
  • ranas
  • zona tropical de los Andes


  • Animal Sciences
  • Biology

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